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Delhi church blaze sparks protest outside police HQ; govt appoints SIT

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 02, 2014 20:14 IST
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Scores of members of the Christian community and social activists staged a protest outside the Delhi police headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday morning over alleged police inaction in the case of the fire which on Monday gutted a church in northeast Delhi's Tahirpur area.

The protesters alleged that the police had been lax in performing their duties and said that a lot of time was lost and possible evidence destroyed before the law and order personnel finally reached the spot.

"We want a judicial inquiry into the fire at the church as police have not taken any action in this regard so far," said Father Stanley Kozhichira, media director of the Delhi archdiocese.

A major traffic jam was caused due to the protest at the ITO junction during the morning rush hours. The protesters tried to enter the police headquarters to meet the police commissioner but were prevented from doing so.

Later, a delegation of the protesters met the city police chief B S Bassi and put forward their demands before him with the latter assuring them of a speedy probe in the case.

Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung constituted an SIT under the leadership of Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav soon after a delegation led by Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto called on him seeking a detailed probe into the fire that gutted St Sebastian's Church in Tahirpur area in northeast Delhi on Monday.

The LG assured Couto of zero tolerance against targetted and communal violence in the national capital. He said he was directing the police commissioner to see that the investigations into the burning of the church were carried out expeditiously and that all preventive measures were taken. The state government, he said, was deeply concerned about such issues.

Kozhichira said they want the local station house officer to be transferred as he had failed to prevent the incident. As to the fire itself, Kozhichira said it seems to be a deliberate act as they could smell kerosene on the spot.

A substantial portion of the church was gutted in the fire which broke out on Monday. Police have registered a case under Section 436 (mischief) of IPC upon a complaint from the church authorities.

Samples were collected from the spot by the fire department and a forensic team to ascertain the cause behind the blaze, police said.

"We have received a complaint in this regard following which we have registered an FIR and further investigations are underway," a senior police official had said.

Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto had on Monday asked the Centre to order a judicial inquiry into the fire.

He has sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to Home Minister Rajnath Singh in that regard.

According to the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, the entire interior of the church, including the altar, a copy of the Bible and the cross, were reduced to ashes in the blaze.

The church, constructed in 2001, is among the biggest churches in east Delhi. It was active till Sunday night because of religious ceremonies for Catholic children who were receiving their first holy communion.

Among those who visited the church on Monday following the fire were former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and some members of Parliament and former MLAs of the area.

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